Hot things come in small packages

Spice up your day with these fun facts about chillis.

Chilli peppers are a popular ingredient in many cuisines around the world, especially in Mexican and Asian cuisines. But not all peppers are spicy — some, like bell peppers, gypsy hybrid peppers and albino sweet peppers, are not spicy at all.

One thing that these non-spicy chillis have in common is their size. Many of them are over 10cm in length, while spicier chillis tend to be much smaller. Here are some other interesting facts about chillis:

1. Chilli hotness is determined by its value in Scoville Heat Units (SHU). In 1912, pharmacologist Wilbur Scoville developed a method of measuring chilli hotness. This method measures capsaicin, the chemical in chillis that causes their hotness.

2. The hottest part of a chilli is actually the membrane that attaches seeds to the inside of the chilli. Smaller chillis have a larger amount of seeds and internal rib (that contain up to 80% of the heat), and therefore are usually hotter.

3. Bird’s eye chilli is known in Singapore and Malaysia by its Malay name cili padi, a small pepper that packs 100,000-250,000 SHU. One of the hottest spices you can add to a meal in this region, it’s used in many local recipes such as ayam masak lemak (chicken in coconut spice) and sambal belacan (a chilli and shrimp paste condiment).

4. But the cili padi ranks nowhere near the hottest chilli in the world: the Carolina Reaper. It was grown by Ed Currie from South Carolina, who crossed Sweet Habanero and Naga Viper chillis. The Carolina Reaper is just 1-3 inches long and delivers an average of over 1.5 million SHU.

5. If you’re feeling sad, eat a chilli. The body defends itself against the heat of chillis by releasing endorphins, happiness hormones that are the body’s natural painkillers. That’s why eating chillis can leave you with a “high”, and why some people love extremely spicy food.

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